Original Published on Sep 22, 2022 at 11:43
By Evan Loree, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A hovercraft is the latest in a long line of fixes for traversing the distance between Toronto and Niagara, but some Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) residents are skeptical it’s the fix its maker hopes it will be.
The new hovercraft service was announced last Wednesday by Hoverlink Ontario Inc. which plans to launch the service next summer.
Hoverlink plans to run two hovercrafts up to 24 times a day each way from Port Weller in St. Catharines to near Ontario Place.
Tickets will cost travellers roughly $25 to $30.
The project is headed by NOTL resident Chris Morgan, who has a background in marketing and motorsport racing.
Coun. Gary Burroughs remembers the failure of many previous Toronto-to-Niagara ferry services but is optimistic about this one.
“This one took their time to get it right,” he said.
It’s an early announcement, though, with the launch nearly a year away and the operators haven’t figured everything out yet, Burroughs said.
He noted that “350 people on buses coming down Lakeshore Road might be a challenge,” a reference to plans for buses to shuttle travellers between NOTL and Port Weller.
Other buses would take people to St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.
While Lord Mayor Betty Disero is “very excited” about the project, calling it “a real game changer” for Niagara transportation and traffic, resident Cindy Grant is not so sure.
“I have no faith whatsoever,” Grant told The Lake Report. “There isn’t the business case for it.”
Grant estimated that she’s seen four or five attempts to provide commuters and tourists with quick transportation to Toronto from Niagara.
To date, none of them have worked.
Grant was not the only one who was skeptical.
Residents Terry Mactaggart and his wife, also named Terry, remember previous services that offered people a cheap and quick way to get back and forth from Toronto, but they all “sunk or went out of business.”
But they agree the hovercraft proposal, if successful, could help with a lot of problems in NOTL, including traffic congestion.
“Traffic has become really horrendous,” Mactaggart said in an interview.
The Mactaggarts agreed that they would use the service to get back and forth to Toronto if they needed to make a trip.
Resident Ken Rive was on the fence, though.
“Whether I would use it or not, I’m not sure,” he said in an interview.
Rive said he doesn’t like Toronto and would need a “specific reason to go there.”
Coun. Sandra O Connor said she thinks “it’s great from the environmental perspective. It will really help get cars off the QEW.”
Doing that would decrease the need to widen the highway, which would help to prevent developments from encroaching onto farm land, she said.